SERC sports student 18 year old Rhys McClenaghan took home Northern Ireland's first gold medal of the 2018 Commonwealth Games yesterday after his sensational pommel horse routine. This is the first time the young competitor has competed at the Games.
The performance saw him spin ahead of his sporting idol and the reigning Olympic champion, England's Max Whitlock, who finished with silver. Both scored 15.1 but the SERC student had a higher execution level.
Rhys is one of only two gymnasts in the Northern Ireland squad along with coach Luke Carson from Rathgael Gymnastics Club in Bangor.
In an interview with the BBC the confident Rhys said "I honestly have no words. The sensational feeling I have at the moment is unbelievable. The medal is dedicated to my mum and dad who sacrifice so much to make sure I attend training to be the best I can be.”
"I'm not just here to take part, I'm here to win medals, win titles and beat Olympic champions. Max has been my idol growing up and I've been watching him since 2010 when he was competing in the Delhi Commonwealths”.
Calling it the proudest moment of his life, the teenager shared an emotional embrace with his delighted parents.
The Commonwealth Games will take place from April 4-15 in Australia's Gold Coast. Northern Ireland have 88-strong athletes from across 13 sports travelling to the competition.
Rhys began training in gymnastics at the young age of six and has developed this passion ever since, inspired by his dad and aunt. After his GCSEs, Rhys joined SERC to study a Level 3 Diploma in Sport. Rhys commented “the best thing about SERC is the flexibility around my training and competition programmes. There is a lot of support from my tutors who make sure I don’t fall behind”.